Skip to content

Press Release

Shadow Chamber

May 25, 2006 through July 8, 2006
Opening Reception Thursday, May 25, 7-9 pm

The Fahey/Klein Gallery is pleased to present a selection of photographs from Roger Ballen's latest publication Shadow Chamber. Featured in this exhibition are powerful images that are as disturbing as they are intriguing, captivating us with a sense of mystery and ambiguity. Taken from the depths of the South African rural villages called 'dorps', Ballen photographs their inhabitants portraying the dark reality of this marginalized community. These dramatic silver gelatin photographs engage the viewer with strange compositions of humans and animals within stark settings of scribbled walls, dangling wires, and stains. Orchestrated and equally documentary, Ballen creates photographs that reveal an eccentric human psyche.

In describing his imagery Ballen states "In a way it is about a strange, ambiguous, dark, and comic place. It is a space that we might recognize; yet we are not quite clear where it is. It is not necessarily a place that you would want to visit or spend a Sunday afternoon. It has elements that are both disturbing and humorous" (Ballen, Eyemazing). A fascinating component to his work, Ballen confronts the twisted nature of society while simultaneously providing an intimate look into the artist's consciousness. Ballen admits it is important for artists to establish a style reflective of themselves (Ballen, Art/South Africa).

Roger Ballen's unique style has been compared to the painterly works of Duchamp and to the "surreal strangeness" of Diane Arbus. It is this ability to construct a theatrical and visually engaging scene using both space and subject, while conveying truth. His photography moves between the aesthetic and psychological, and blurs the line between fact and fiction. "I try to create visual interactions of signs and symbols, to create meaning beyond literal explanation. I see lines and markings as similar to those in Twombly drawings, or graffiti, or even cave drawings" (Ballen, Eyemazing).

Roger Ballen was born in New York on April 11, 1950. His father, an editor at Magnum, heavily influenced Ballen's interest in documentary photography. At the age of 18 he was photographing the civil rights and anti-war movement in the 1960s. He later studied psychology and received a Ph.D. in Mineral Economics. After traveling extensively he settled in South Africa working as a geologist and mining entrepreneur in Johannesburg. It was there that he discovered the 'dorps' which he began to document with his camera. For the last 20 years Ballen has been photographing these villages and their people, integrating his background in psychology into his work. He currently has six publications of his photography. Roger Ballen's work has been exhibited in galleries around the world and has been widely collected by such prestigious institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.